Summary : Experience the majestic beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula and the rich, storied history of the Falkland Islands. Begin your adventure in this wild, windswept landscape and home to an abundance of unique wildlife in an expedition that combines your Falklands visit with an in-depth exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula. Round out your journey with an exploration of the South Shetland Islands. Experience the highlights of Antarctica—enjoy walks ashore with naturalist guides, visit historic huts, view spectacular icebergs while zodiac cruising, and witness an awe-inspiring abundance of wildlife.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Meet at the airport and fly on the scheduled service to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. After a short 90-minute flight, arrive in Stanley where you will be met on arrival and transferred to the pier, embarking your expedition ship, Akademik Sergey Vavilov. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica—and the adventure of a lifetime.
Cruise down the coast of the Falklands and you approach Sea Lion Island, note the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the sometimes wild weather that originates in the Drake Passage. Launch zodiacs and go ashore to view the remarkable wildlife colonies found here. Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper exist in the vicinity. Southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are found hauled out on the beaches. Once ashore, look for king cormorants and striated caracaras. Weather permitting, you may have time to visit neighboring Bleaker Island, another settlement on the exposed southeastern coast of the Falklands. In the evening, push out into the Scotia Sea, charting a course for the frozen continent.
The days at sea are never dull. Much time is spent on the bridge or outer decks, scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. A profusion of seabirds delight you as they wheel and spin around the ship. Spend plenty of time with your onboard polar experts as they share their passion and information on the wonders of the South Atlantic Ocean and Antarctic eco-systems. The history of early polar exploration is a popular theme. Perhaps you will pick up some valuable tips from the onboard photographic guide, learning about image composition, the subtle and soft polar light and all the basics of good camera craft. You will also learn about Polar conservation—a theme particularly close to the hearts of your expedition guides and crew.
The dramatic ice cliffs of Elephant Island come into view marking your arrival at the fabled Point Wild on the north coast of this remote outcrop. It is here that Shackleton and his men were encamped under their upturned life boats after their ship, the HMS Endurance, sank in the deep Weddell Sea in 1915. Shore landings at Point Wild are notoriously tricky due to the surging ocean currents and pounding surf on the rocky beach. If conditions are right, you will attempt a landing. This is a thrilling location and a major highlight for history buffs.
Leaving Elephant Island behind, enter the broad expanse of the Bransfield Strait which separates the South Shetland Islands from the Antarctic Peninsula. The magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica are laid out before you. Even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on the immense power of Antarctica. Take a deep breath—you have arrived.
The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves, inlets and numerous small islands. The landscape features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops are home to gentoo, adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life. Visitors frequently encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, often found relaxing on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and the smaller minke whales are found in sizable numbers feeding on the rich krill blooms. Sightings of orca are not uncommon.
Enjoy several days of exploration, with the activity program in full swing, allowing guests to choose how their adventure unfolds. Popular activities include guided hikes on shore and visits to wildlife colonies with expert naturalist guides, while the historic huts and science stations provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice is a memorable activity and sea kayakers may range several miles from the ship. Your photography guide will be on hand to help you with your camera handling, image composition and the peculiar light found in Antarctica.
Planned excursions could include Cierva Cove, Danco Island, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location and one where travelers frequently encounter playful humpback whales. Paradise Bay is a particular highlight and offers an excellent hiking route providing stunning 360 degree views.
After several busy days of exploration, head north across the Bransfield Strait, bound for the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and, if the weather conditions allow, sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic landscape and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around as you explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden structures. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is an outstanding hike here, high up onto the rim of the crater.
On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, and the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbor, where visitors often encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is a great spot for a hike or a zodiac cruise. Tonight, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
This morning, anchor off King George Island. Say goodbye to your crew and transfer ashore by zodiac. Time permitting, explore the surrounding area. There are several important research bases here including Chile’s Frei Station and Bellingshausen Station. Transfer to the airstrip for the two-hour flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. Otherwise enjoy a night in this delightful city, or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Antarctic trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Sea Kayaking Option: $795 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 16 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
Enhanced Photography Program: No additional supplement
Select departures host an enhanced photography program, where in addition to the photographer in residence, a professional photographer will serve as one of the expedition guides. This expands the opportunities and bandwidth for those passengers looking to learn more and get more out of their images. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Hiking Excursions: No additional supplement
No pre-booking required. Trekking poles are available onboard for passenger use and instep crampons will be provided if necessary to improve traction on slick surfaces. Sturdy hiking books and warm hiking socks are needed to join this activity. Hikes will be 2-3 hours in duration and will involve negotiating challenging terrain without the assistance of trails. Antarctica hiking rewards with images of snow, ice, mountains, and glaciers.
Camping Option: No additional supplement. (Possibly available on select departures. Contact ExpeditionTrips for details)
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear, such as bivy sacs and sleeping bags, will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. A portable outhouse tent is used and absolutely everything is transported back to the ship afterwards.
Photography: No additional supplement.
An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in a different way in order to capture them digitally. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Accommodation aboard the ship; return flights Punta Arenas to Stanley / King George Island to Punta Arenas; all meals during the voyage prepared by onboard professional chefs; afternoon tea with fresh snacks each afternoon; coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day; all Zodiac excursions; extensive program of relevant educational presentations; advice from experienced team of naturalists; foul weather gear set (pants/jacket/wellington boots OR waterproof backpack/waterproof binoculars/wellington boots); use of multimedia station; welcome reception; welcome dinner; farewell dinner hosted by Captain; 'Memory Book' (log book chronicling your trip, includes photos); onboard medical officer; pre-departure information; hairdryers available on request at no charge; group transfers from airport to ship in Port Stanley and from ship to airport in King George Island.
All airfare (except where explicitly stated above); visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise meals, transfers, and hotel accommodation; personal laundry charges; postage; telephone calls; drinks; medical expenses; trip interruption and cancellation insurance; travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (required); gratuities to staff and crew; private fitness sessions; massage therapy; fee for optional programs.
PHOTOS: © Adam Riley; © C Lawton